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What we can learn from the UK's best TV adverts of 2021

We take a look at some of the UK’s best TV adverts of 2021 and dive into the messages behind them.

As the confetti settled after the country celebrated moving into a new year in 2021, people around the country soon were reluctantly swapping pub seats for switching on their TV sets once more as the UK government announced yet another national lockdown.

It marked an opportunity for some of the UK’s best TV adverts to shine, laden with compelling messages sprinkled with glimmers of hope as the UK began to emerge from restrictions later in the year.

With the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) held in Glasgow in 2021, several of the years’ TV advertising campaigns highlighted the importance of embracing sustainability from zero-waste food to tackling the use of plastic.

From tackling the stigma new mothers face with breastfeeding to the issues facing those experiencing homelessness, some of the UK’s best TV adverts in 2021 hit the headlines for prompting a debate into on-going societal issues.

Let’s take a look at our rundown of some of the UK’s best TV adverts of 2021 and dive into the messages behind them:

HSBC - Vicious Circle

HSBC - Vicious Circle
Agency: Wunderman Thompson

The HSBC bank teamed up with housing and homelessness charity Shelter for its hard-hitting  ‘Vicious Circle’ campaign, highlighting the plight of those experiencing homelessness. 

The advert, devised by creative agency Wunderman Thompson, depicts a woman going through what appears to be a never-ending cycle of rejection from employers, banks and agencies as she doesn’t have one of the key necessities required in daily life - a home address. 

According to Shelter, more than 250,000 people in England are homeless and in temporary accommodation. 

A looped chant of “No home? No address. No address? No bank account. No bank account? No job. No job? No home…” hammers home the heart-breaking message.

Through the advertising campaign, HSBC aimed to raise awareness of its ‘No Fixed Address’ service in partnership with Shelter to help those who are without a fixed address to open a bank account. As part of the service, the charity provides those experiencing homeless with an address and the bank provides them with an account.

Tommee Tippee - The Boob Life

Tommee Tippee - The Boob Life
Agency: Manifest London and The Gate

A bold campaign for Tommee Tippee titled ‘The Boob Life’ hit the headlines in 2021 after it was controversially banned by Facebook for breaching its ‘nudity and sexual content’ guidelines.

Created by Manifest London and The Gate, the campaign features an array of mothers breastfeeding their babies. The message of the advert showcases how the brand aims to support parents through their feeding journey - whether that be by breastfeeding, pumps or bottles.  

Addressing the Facebook ban at the time, The Gate told Prolific North how the advert was created to spark debate around the stigma of breastfeeding and to celebrate motherhood as opposed to creating controversy.

Ikea - Fortune Favours the Frugal

Ikea - Fortune Favours the Frugal
Agency: Mother

Ikea’s ‘Fortune Favours the Frugal’ campaign encourages viewers to reflect on the benefits of embracing living life in moderation with a vital sustainability message. 

To the tune of The Barons’ soundtrack ‘Make it Better’, the advert for Ikea UK follows a family positively taking more steps to reduce their carbon footprint by recycling, reducing energy use and becoming more thrifty. 

A giant ‘meteor’ ball made up of rubbish continues to hurtle towards Earth during the advert, as the family continues to tackle their own waste output. The ‘meteor’ eventually reduces to a singular plastic bottle as the family continues to embrace a more sustainable way of living, highlighting the importance we all have to play in improving the environment. 

The campaign forms part of Ikea’s ambition to become fully ‘circular’ by 2030, by using only renewable or recycled materials for its products to make it easier for its customers to repair, reuse, resell and recycle them.

Guinness - Welcome Back

Guinness - Welcome Back
Agency: AMV BBDO

Set to the soundtrack of a Jack Savoretti rendition of the ballad ‘Always On My Mind’, the Guinness ‘Welcome Back’ advert kicks off with a nostalgic snapshot of scenes many endured during lockdown - from socially distanced meetups to eerily quiet streets.

Devised by AMV BBDO, the campaign toasted the reopening of pubs and bars in the UK following months of restrictions for the sector. 

With the tagline ‘Good things come to those who wait’ a man sits in a pub with friends enjoying his first freshly poured pint of the iconic Irish stout.

As part of the campaign, Guinness pledged £30m to support the UK hospitality industry as it reopened its doors to the public once more. The industry was hit hard by the government-imposed restrictions and the campaign sought to encourage viewers back through the doors of bars and pubs across the country.

Greenpeace - Wasteminster: A Downing Street Disaster

Greenpeace - Wasteminster: A Downing Street Disaster
Agency: Studio Birthplace

A powerful satirical campaign created by Studio Birthplace for Greenpeace had a vital message in 2021 - the UK needs to tackle its abundance of plastic waste and to cease dumping it onto other countries.

A YouGov survey found 86% of people are concerned about the volume of plastic waste generated by the UK, with 81% wishing that the government did more to tackle the issue.

To amplify the message, a plastic Boris Johnson is depicted in the advert waffling about how the UK is tackling plastic waste - as a tidal wave of plastic overflows out of Downing Street engulfing a curtain-twitching Michael Gove and Larry, the famous Downing Street cat, in the process. At the end of the advert, images of the locations where the plastic is dumped is highlighted to urge viewers to call on the government to do more.

The visually striking campaign aims to highlight Greenpeaces’ message that the UK is dumping an equivalent amount of plastic waste that is dumped on Downing Street in the advert, onto other countries on a daily basis.

Co-op - Live Ad

Co-op - Live Ad
Agency: Lucky Generals

Steering away from the traditional format of a Christmas TV Advert, the Co-op opted for a first - a live Christmas advert with a spot on ITV.

Co-op partnered with environmental charity Hubbub to promote the charity’s Community Fridge Project, an initiative encouraging people to think about, and take action, in an effort to reduce their food waste.

The two-minute live advert highlighted the use of Community Fridges to redistribute food with a mission to prevent around 6.8 million meals per year from going to waste. 

There are around 250 Community Fridges, a social space aiming to bring people together to eat, cook, learn new skills and reduce food waste, running across the UK. 

The fridges are open to everyone with the food donated by businesses including the Co-op, which donates surplus food from its stores to the fridges. 

Produced by Lucky Generals, TV presenter Dermot O’Leary joined volunteers at the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association Community Centre in London to showcase the benefits of a Community Fridge - including how to cook using ingredients from its fridges.


Channel 4 - Audio Described takeover

Channel 4 - Audio Described takeover
Agency: Various - Produced by Sassy Films with support from Adtext

Channel 4, in partnership with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), teamed up with a number of brands to create an ‘AD Ad Break’ takeover to highlight the importance of audio description. 

Brands including Airbnb, BT Broadband, Experian, P&G brands Gillette and Oral B, and Virgin Media took part in the campaign.

It was devised by the 4Sales’ creative arm PL4Y with agency partners Essence, PHD, Procter & Gamble (P&G) and media communications agency Manning Gottlieb OMD.

The adverts coincided with Channel 4’s coverage of the Paralympic Games to showcase the importance of audio description (AD) for blind and partially-sighted audiences. 

According to the RNIB charity, there are approximately 2 million people who have visual impairments. The campaign aimed to raise awareness of AD for those with visual impairments and to encourage other brands to support viewers by ensuring AD is made available. 

Throughout a series of adverts, Last Leg TV presenter Alex Brooker provided a series of audio descriptions to verbally describe the events taking place on screen as various advertising campaigns were broadcast. It aimed to demonstrate the importance of providing those with visual impairments the same opportunities to enjoy media content.